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Bessie Jackson was a pseudonym of Lucille Bogan, a classic female blues artist from the '20s and '30s. Her outspoken lyrics deal with sexuality in a manner that manages to raise eyebrows even within a genre that is about as nasty as recorded music ever got prior to the emergence of artists such as 2 Live Crew or Ludacris. The name change seems to be quite different in her case than the usual pattern among blues artists who recorded under other names simply to make an end run around pre-existing recording contracts. Jackson/Bogan seemed to be looking for something more substantial, in that she not only changed her name but her performance style as well, and never recorded again under the name of Lucille Bogan once the Jackson persona had emerged. This was despite having enjoyed a hit record in the so-called "race market" in 1927 with the song "Sweet Petunia" as Bogan, but perhaps this was a scent she was trying to hide from.
This performer came out of the extremely active blues scene of Birmingham, AL, in the '20s. She was born Lucille Anderson in Mississippi, picking up Bogan as a married name. She was the aunt of pianist and trumpet player Thomas "Big Music" Anderson. Bogan made her first recordings of the tunes "Lonesome Daddy Blues" and "Pawnshop Blues," in 1923, in New York City for the OKeh label. Despite the blues references in the titles, these were more vaudeville numbers. She moved to Chicago a year or two later and developed a huge following in the Windy City, before relocating to New York City in the early '30s, where she began a long collaborative relationship with pianist Walter Roland. This was the type of musical combination that many songwriters and singers only dream about; he was a perfect foil, knew what to play on the piano to bring out the best in her voice, and was such a sympathetic partner that it is hard to know where her ideas start and his end, no matter what name she was using. The pair made more than 100 records together before Bogan stopped recording in 1935.
One of the most infamous of the Jackson sides is the song "B.D. Woman's Blues," which 75 years later packs more of a punch than the lesbian-themed material of artists such as Holly Near or the Indigo Girls. "B.D." was short for "bull dykes," after all, and the blues singer lays it right on the line with the opening verse: "Comin' a time/women ain't gonna need no men." Well, except for a good piano player such as Walter Roland or some of her other hotshot accompanists such as guitarists Tampa Red and Josh White, or banjo picker Papa Charlie Jackson. She herself gets an accordion credit on one early recording, quite unusual for this genre. Certainly one of Bogan's greatest talents was as a songwriter, and she copyrighted dozens of titles, many of them so original that other blues artists were forced to give credit where credit was due instead of whipping up "matcher" imitations as was more than norm. She still wrote songs during her later years living in California, and her final composition was "Gonna Leave Town," which turned out to be quite a prophetic title. By the time Smokey Hogg cut the tune in 1949, Jackson really had left town, having passed away the previous year from coronary sclerosis. While the material of some artists from this period has become largely forgotten, this is hardly the case for her; Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women have recorded several of her songs, as has bandmember Ann Rabson on her solo projects, as well as the naughty novelty band the Asylum Street Spankers.
Lucille Bogan (April 1, 1897 – August 10, 1948) was an American blues singer, among the first to be recorded. She also recorded under the pseudonym Bessie Jackson. The music critic and sexologist Ernest Borneman stated that Bogan, along with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, was in "the big three of the blues".
Life and career 
She was born Lucille Anderson in Amory, Mississippi, and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1914, she married Nazareth Lee Bogan, a railwayman, and gave birth to a son, Nazareth Jr., in either 1915 or 1916. Lucille later divorced Nazareth and married James Spencer, who was 22 years younger than herself.
She first recorded vaudeville songs for Okeh Records in New York in 1923, with pianist Henry Callens. Later that year she recorded "Pawn Shop Blues" in Atlanta, Georgia, which was the first time a black blues singer had been recorded outside New York or Chicago. In 1927 she began recording for Paramount Records in Grafton, Wisconsin, where she recorded her first big success, "Sweet Petunia", which was covered by Blind Blake. She also recorded for Brunswick Records, backed by Tampa Red and Cow Cow Davenport.
By 1930 her recordings had begun to concentrate on drinking and sex, with songs such as "Sloppy Drunk Blues" (covered by Leroy Carr and others) and "Tricks Ain't Walkin' No More" (later recorded by Memphis Minnie). She also recorded the original version of "Black Angel Blues", which (as "Sweet Little Angel") was covered by B.B. King and many others. Trained in the rowdier juke joints of the 1920s, many of Bogan's songs, most of which she wrote herself, have thinly-veiled humorous sexual references. The theme of prostitution, in particular, featured prominently in several of her recordings. In 1933 she returned to New York, and, apparently to conceal her identity, began recording as Bessie Jackson for the Banner (ARC) label. She was usually accompanied on piano by Walter Roland, with whom she recorded over 100 songs between 1933 and 1935, including some of her biggest commercial successes including "Seaboard Blues", "Troubled Mind", and "Superstitious Blues".
Her other songs included "Stew Meat Blues", "Coffee Grindin' Blues", "My Georgia Grind", "Honeycomb Man", "Mr. Screw Worm In Trouble", and "Bo Hog Blues". Her final recordings with Roland and Josh White included two takes of "Shave 'Em Dry", recorded in New York on Tuesday March 5, 1935. The unexpurgated alternate take is notorious for its explicit sexual references, a unique record of the lyrics sung in after-hours adult clubs. Another of her songs, "B.D. Woman's Blues", takes the position of a "bull dyke" ("B.D."), with the line "Comin' a time, B.D. women, they ain't gonna need no men" "They got a head like a sweet angel and they walk just like a natural man." "They can lay their jive just like a natural man."
She appears not to have recorded after 1935, and spent some time managing her son's jazz group, Bogan's Birmingham Busters, before moving to Los Angeles shortly before her death from coronary sclerosis in 1948. She is interred at the Lincoln Memorial Park, Compton, California.